Friday, January 14, 2011

Where Have I Been All This Time?

For anyone who was curious, I haven't been shot or blown up or abducted by aliens during the last month. I simply slipped into a strange holiday funk and couldn't bring myself to share my backpack of personal woes with the ether world. Only now that I've settled into a new identity and a new life can I finally work up the energy to talk a little bit.

My malaise started to envelope me shortly before Christmas. The Colonel and one of our field operatives, Geoffrey, were planning to involve me in a case Geoffrey is working on. I was to become a love interest for him during his undercover work on Maryland's Eastern Shore. I would be Carla Puckett, a slightly trashy party girl who sinks her talons into Geoffrey and becomes his constant companion. This would allow me to stay close as he develops a relationship with our targets. Anyway, intel indicated that there was no immediate threat, so The Colonel told me I could start my new assignment after the holidays. Normally this would have been good news, but this year, I knew Christmas would have to be spent with Mom's new boyfriend and his annoying daughter. As the day approached, my anxiety increased. I missed my dad and couldn't bear to make nice-nice with Mom's new "family." On Christmas Eve, I decided I had to leave. After packing my bags, I gave my mother her presents and told her I had to leave on an emergency business trip. She was stunned and a bit angry, but she took it better than I thought she would. By 9 p.m., I was in my car headed for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

No formal arrangements had yet been made for my new cover, so I was sort of winging it. I holed up in a Motel Six near Chestertown for the weekend, watching Christmas shows and football games. The heavy snow kept me pinned down for a couple days more, but I finally managed to get out and apartment hunt by the middle of the week. I found myself a little dump of an apartment to suit my cover. The heat doesn't work all that well and the electric stove takes an hour to boil a pot of water. Didn't matter. The whole dreary vibe suits my mood. Although I was using my cover name and all the fake IDs and credit cards, I didn't tell either The Colonel or Geoffrey that I was in town. I just wanted to disappear from everyone for awhile.

New Year's Eve rolled around, only exacerbating my horrid mood. If you are depressed and alone, there's nothing like a day where everyone insists you should be happy and partying to drive you further down the pit. The nicotine-stained walls of my apartment were closing in on me. By 6 p.m., I couldn't take it anymore and drove out to the first dive bar I could find.

It was relatively early, so the place was mostly empty. I ordered one of their draft beers (something that wasn't Budweiser) and sat at the bar. The bartender, whom everyone called Plum, started to talk to me. Maybe he sensed I was down and needed someone to chat with or maybe he just wanted to strike up a conversation with the only woman in the bar. Either way, Plum was a nice guy. We talked about the bad weather and how the Ravens were going to the playoffs, and then he brought up about how he'd just had a fight with one of his waitresses and she walked out on him.

"On New Year's Eve, for chrissakes," he cried. "What a bite in the ass that is! This place'll be crazy as hell in a couple of hours."

I'm not totally sure what possessed me, but I impulsively told him I would be happy to fill in for the night. In real life, I had never had a waitressing job in my life, but I figured that Carla Puckett must've had plenty of them. Somehow, I convinced myself that this would be perfectly natural.

Plum reached under the counter and tossed an apron at me. "Finish your beer. You're on duty."

The rest of the night was a blur. Having observed waitresses my whole life, I just behaved the way I thought I was supposed to. That didn't make the drink trays any lighter, or the drunken customers any easier to deal with, but it was New Year's and I was totally new, so Plum was forgiving about the broken glasses and botched drink orders. In fact, I must've done most things right because he offered me a regular job.

So that's what I've been doing for the last couple of weeks. The money's not bad, actually, even though we aren't getting the Wall Street crowd in here. Wear a low cut blouse and you can walk away with a tidy sum in tips. The smell of stale beer gets to me sometimes, and some of the guys can be annoying douchebags, but it beats doing online porn anyday.

Oh, the other thing I wanted to mention. I hadn't made contact with Geoffrey yet, but lo and behold, he just happened to walk into the bar one night out of the blue. We made eye contact, but quickly looked away so as to not tip our hands. He was there with some buddies from work. Apparently, he is now Hank, a construction worker. This was perfect. Now we can become involved and it will look completely natural. It helps that he is really cute. My spirits are lifting.